We often encounter PDF files that are pure images, that is, they do not have text characters, but instead contain only raster graphics. The most common causes of this are document scanning software and faxing software/services that create image-only PDF files rather than PDF searchable image files, the latter having the scanned or faxed images and text created by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). The solution is to perform OCR on the image-only PDFs to create text. Many software products can do this, such as ABBYY FineReader, Adobe Acrobat (but not Adobe Reader) and Nuance's OmniPage, PaperPort, and Power PDF. Some can even do it in batch mode via a command line interface. But they are all non-free products, many quite expensive. This video Micro Tutorial shows how to OCR the pages of an image-only PDF, thereby creating searchable/copyable text, with excellent, free software called PDF-XChange Editor from Tracker Software Products.
1. Download the Free Version of PDF-XChange Editor
Visit the website for PDF-XChange Editor at Tracker Software Products:
Tick the radio button for the installer you prefer and then click the DOWNLOAD NOW button.
2. Run the downloaded installer
Run the installer that you downloaded and select the Free Version (unless, of course, you want more features and would like to purchase the Pro Version).
3. Open the document in PDF-XChange Editor
The installer creates a program group called PDF-XChange with a shortcut in it for PDF-XChange Editor. Click the shortcut to run it and then open an image-only PDF document in it.
4. Run the OCR feature
Click Document menu.
Click OCR Pages.
5. Enter page range to OCR
Specify page range in the first section of the OCR Pages dialog. Choices are All, Current Page, Selected Pages, Pages, All Pages, Odd Pages Only, Even Pages Only.
6. Enter language, accuracy, output type/quality
Specify primary language. Immediately available are English, French, German, Spanish. Click More Languages to visit the web for others.
Specify accuracy: Low (fastest), Medium, High (slowest).
Select Create New Searchable PDF or Preserve Original Content and Add Text Layer. If choosing the former, you may select a Quality (300 is usually fine for a typical PDF) and/or Auto Deskew (straighten).
7. Save the OCR'ed document
Do a File>Save or File>Save As or another Save choice on the File menu to save the PDF with the text from OCR (but Save Optimized Copy is not available in the Free Version).
That's it! You now have a PDF with text from the OCR process. You may search for this text in any PDF reader/viewer, copy/paste it into Word or a text editor, etc.
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